College Football Preview: Storylines, Heisman, Bama/Clemson

Clemson as the hunted. Alabama seeking revenge. A power glut down south. A dearth of contenders out west. Big-name transfers and bigger-name coaching moves. Welcome to the 2019 college football season. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here’s what you need to know heading into the new campaign.

STORYLINE NO. 1: QB transfers reshape landscape
Quarterback transfers are suddenly in vogue, and the ripple effects will soon be felt. Former Alabama signal-caller Jalen Hurts leads the transfer list, heading to Oklahoma looking to become the fifth Sooner QB — and third straight — to claim the Heisman Trophy. Justin Fields has moved on from Georgia to play for Ryan Day at Ohio State and is expected to submit a monster campaign. Jacob Eason is another former Bulldog who has left the Peach State, moving to the highly-rated Washington. Former Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson is healthy again and should have a strong season for rebuilding Maryland.

STORYLINE NO. 2: Mack is back; Les is more
Some 22 seasons after he left North Carolina and six removed from his departure from Texas, Mack Brown is back in college football, returning to lead the Tar Heels. Brown has had just one losing season since 1990, but it must be remembered that he went 1-10 in each of his first two seasons at North Carolina and the Heels have won just five games over the last two seasons. With a season win total set at 5, expectations aren’t very high, as the program has its sights set on 2020.

Halfway across the country, not to be outdone is Kansas, which also recruited a big-name coach in Les Miles following his departure from LSU. Like Brown, Miles’ reputation precedes him, as he hasn’t endured a losing season since his first year as a head coach back in 2001. With that said, Miles inherits a Jayhawks program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2009 and boasts a season win total of 3. In other words, it could be a long year in Lawrence.

HEISMAN WATCH: Finding some sleepers
To the surprise of nobody, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa enter the 2019 season as favorites for college football’s highest individual honor. Despite both teams dominating the landscape in the College Football Playoff era, Clemson has never had a Heisman winner and the Tide have yet to see a quarterback win. Quarterbacks have won the last three and eight of the last nine Heismans, so sleepers to look for are Georgia’s Jake Fromm (20/1) and Notre Dame’s Ian Book (50/1). Fromm has an outstanding resume, helms a genuine title contender and will be asked to do more, while Book is leading a college blueblood and has already shown his big-play potential.

CRYSTAL BALL: Heavyweights or the field?
Alabama and Clemson have split the last four national titles, and it seems more than likely that one of the two powerhouses will again be back to lift the trophy. They are the two best-coached teams and both have brought in Top 10 recruiting classes. Neither Georgia nor Ohio State appears to have made a big enough leap, while Oklahoma — despite always needing to be respected with Lincoln Riley — simply doesn’t have the defense to hold down the big dogs. Alabama/Clemson at -155 looks to be the play over The Field at +130.

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